BOSTON: Isaiah Thomas took charge in the fourth quarter to power the Boston Celtics to a 103-99 victory over the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers despite a triple-double from LeBron James.
James posted the 49th triple-double of his career but Thomas did him one better down the stretch in a battle between the Eastern Conference’s top two seeds.
Thomas boasted after the game that there isn’t a team in the league than can stop him.
“Nobody holds me in check. I average 30 points for a reason,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who finished with 31 points, scored five points in the final 49 seconds as the Celtics beat the Cavaliers for the first time this season in three tries.
Thomas set up three-pointers by Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley before nailing a three pointer of his own with 49 seconds left to tie the game at 99-99. He was fouled on a drive with 28 seconds left and made the free throws.
After Kyrie Irving missed a jumper, Tristan Thompson rebounded the ball and got it back to a covered James, who fed a wide open Deron Williams in the corner.
Williams, in his second game with Cleveland, missed the long shot.
Crowder rebounded and hit two free throws with four seconds remaining.
“I think it’s big for us, especially going on to the west coast. This needs to carry over for us,” said Bradley.
Thomas came into the contest on a four-game shooting slump. He also had five assists, while Crowder had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Al Horford flirted with a triple double by tallying nine points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.James generally scores in bunches against the Celtics and Wednesday was no different. He finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Irving scored 28 points and Thompson pulled down 13 rebounds.
“Great game. Executed well by both teams. They made a couple more shots than we did down the stretch, but nothing bad about tonight,” James said.
At one point in the contest, James lost his footing and almost barrelled into New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was sitting courtside.
James missed Saturday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls with strep throat, but returned and scored 24 points in a 102-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
The Celtics improved to 39-22 on the season after dropping three of four after the all-star break with their best players struggling to score.